Born and raised in a military family, Janaye Wideman finds her new job as principal of Dyess Elementary and fires her afterburners.

“Dyess really spoke to me about my background, being a traveling military kid and my parents’ connection to the diverse community,” said Wideman, whose parents were both in the Air Force. and live in Abilene.

While her father, James Batiste, was there only a few years before she was born, her mother, Janet, made it her entire career.

“That experience alone really got me interested on campus,” she said. “And then it’s a brand new beautiful building that has this modern design with modern concepts. It’s such a non-traditional place. It’s an amazing place to be fair.”

Add to that staff with a good reputation and children and families with a “great presence in the community,” she said, and the whole prospect really takes off.

Wideman, 37, was a vice principal at Stafford Elementary before accepting her role at Dyess. She has seven years of experience in elementary school administration, having served on three AISD campuses.

She was the educational coordinator at the Jackson and Jane Long elementary schools.

Wideman taught for eight years at Reagan Elementary and for one year in the Coleman Independent School District.

Destined for Dyess

Born in Tuscon, Arizona, where her mother was stationed, Wideman’s family eventually moved to Anchorage, Alaska.

Even then, they had a Dyess connection, Wideman said.

Her mother’s twin sister had simultaneously entered into her own military career and was stationed here for a few years before going overseas.

“While she was here, we sometimes visited her,” Wideman recalled. “(My parents) really enjoyed the Abilene community, and we started visiting a church that was here that they really connected with, just by being a visitor. The next place we went, they wanted let it be here.”

Wideman herself spent time at Clack Elementary in eighth grade.

“My mom was stationed in San Antonio, so she was never stationed in Dyess until she retired,” Wideman said.

But after?

Abilene bound.

“We all moved here,” Wideman said. “And we’ve been here ever since. It was 2000.”

find a way

Wideman jokes that she doesn’t have an “inspirational teacher story” or family of educators that led her to choose her career.

“I just landed on it,” she said.

A graduate of Cooper High School, Wideman went to Abilene Christian University. She started out as a psychology student, admittedly not knowing where that might lead.

“As I got into it, I realized that wasn’t really what I wanted to do,” she said. “So I literally checked the catalog trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.”

She realized that she had always enjoyed going to school and did well there, whether her teachers were dull or dazzling, and thought she might give education a try.

In no time, she knew she had found her calling.

“I realized that was what I was supposed to do,” Wideman said. “It’s not really an inspirational story to come to this. But once I got there, I knew.”

Janaye Wideman, principal of Dyess Primary School, on Tuesday.

Help to success

One thing Wideman loves about education, she said, is that no matter if a student is going through coursework or struggling, what can really help determine their success are the relationships they have. talks with the teachers, the administration and “everyone who works with him”.

“I wasn’t going to be like, ‘I’m just going to make a difference because I’m going to take these kids under my wing and teach them all these things and give them love,’ and all that.” Wideman spoke about her first experience as a teacher. “That wasn’t my mindset when I started.”

But she learned quickly, especially working with a population similar to the one she found at Reagan, Elementary where for many “there was a lot of struggle in their home life and in their studies.”

“I realized quickly that I couldn’t just extract the information, do this awesome lesson, and then expect to be successful,” Wideman said. “…I have learned over the years that the relationship with students is so important to supporting them.”

The same goes for teachers, she said, when she held positions as a campus administrator, including “doing what other people have done for me – investing in me, seeing my potential, m ‘help realize my potential’.

“It’s been my focus, how can I connect with customers and how can I promote success for everyone and not just those who want to be successful?” said Wideman.

Some students may not see the value of education or may not realize how much they can actually do.

“For some reason they have their own boundaries that they’ve designed, so it’s exciting for me to break down that wall, that barrier,” Wideman said. “You have potential, you have things inside you that the world needs. … Helping them get to know themselves is really what makes the difference in their success.”

Representation Matters

Speaking about her experience as a black educator, Wideman, who holds a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, said it helps some students know that there are people “like you, that represent who you are”.

“It’s human nature,” she said. “We want to belong, we want that sense of belonging.”

Abilene is predominantly white and Hispanic, she said, which is reflected in the composition of the school district. The largest student crowd in the district is now Hispanic.

But it’s also a city that has a black mayor, a black police chief and others in key roles.

Wideman said there was an opportunity to be an example for students from all walks of life, to help them learn “how far they can go” towards achieving their dreams.

“But I think sometimes people need that, that visual, that person, that someone to look up to,” she said. “(Just) to see, ‘They’re like me, and I can be like them,’ when it comes to success.”

Go forward

In his new role, Wideman is eager to learn the ropes and move forward.

“It’s not a place that just needs someone to renovate it,” she said of the Dyess campus in general. “But every school has its own challenges, and every school has opportunities to grow.”

It comes through observation, she said, something she’s already engaged in quite a bit.

“I spent a lot of time with the staff getting to know them,” she said, one-on-one if she can, also visiting parents and other members of the community. community.

Data is something schools thrive on, and Wideman has done its fair share to collect it.

“That’s what helps us understand what we need to do,” she said.

It has already resulted in a few small changes, she said, such as schedule adjustments or changing a room.

Responding to safety issues is an area she doesn’t mind in the face of rapid change, she said, a top topic on many people’s minds due to recent dangerous situations in Texas schools.

“That’s the first thing we looked at in terms of what needs to change,” she said, although Dyess is already “a very safe place” as a campus.

“Everything else will be a learning process,” she said.

Take advantage of downtime

Married to Abilene Police Department rangemaster Chance Wideman, Wideman said having a close-knit family life was important to her, as was engaging in religious activities and spending time with his parents.

“(Reload) is just downtime with the family,” she said. “My career, my job is very important to me and I hold it in high regard. But at the end of the day, you know, there’s more to life than that.”

The Widemans have two daughters, Kinslee, who attends Madison Middle School and will be in seventh grade, and Kalli, who has been attending Alcorta since kindergarten and will be in second grade at Dyess.

Although she happily describes her family life as “boring”, sometimes there is fierce competition in an exciting game of Uno or a board game, she said.

This too is a family tradition.

“Growing up with my parents, our number one game was ‘Taboo,'” Wideman said. “That’s how my mom judges how good people are going to be. You come home with us, you play ‘Taboo’, you’re in it if you can pass the trick. It’s just the norm That we have.”

Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for Abilene Reporter-News. If you enjoy local news, you can support local reporters with a digital subscription to

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